Belgian prime minister announces resignation
MPs were on the verge of forcing Belgium's leader out with a vote of no confidence
Belgium’s king is expected to meet party leaders on Wednesday in an attempt to resolve a political deadlock after premier Charles Michel announced his resignation Tuesday following a row over migration.
Mr Michel, who took office in 2014, lost the backing of the New Flemish Alliance over his support for the UN migration pact, a rallying point for European anti-immigration parties.
Mr Michel's resignation comes two days after demonstrations against the pact in central Brussels descended into scuffles, with police forced to use tear gas and water cannon to restore order.
After a debate in parliament where opposition parties refused to lend their support to keep his government working until elections in May next year, Mr Michel announced he would step down.
"I have taken the decision to submit my resignation and it is my intention to go to see the king immediately," Mr Michel said, jumping before lawmakers could push him with a motion of no confidence.
Afterwards, King Philippe received Mr Michel but will hold consultations before deciding whether to accept his resignation, the palace said.
In a tweet, the Royal Palace said King Philippe had received Mr Michel and was "withholding his decision" about what steps to take next.
Belgian media said the king would meet party leaders on Wednesday before deciding whether to accept the resignation the prime minister tendered on behalf of himself and his government.
Agriculture Minister Denis Ducarne of Michel's liberal MR party, criticised left wing and green parties for risking "paralysis and crisis for our country" instead of cooperating.
The Flemish nationalist N-VA, led by powerful Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever, had made political demands which Michel judged "unacceptable" – notably on possible constitutional changes.
The liberal premier steadfastly defended the Marrakesh migration pact, saying it presented an "opportunity for better European and international cooperation".
The non-binding UN accord, which would promote a common global approach to migration, was initially supported by all four parties in Belgium's coalition.
But the N-VA changed its mind in late October and pulled out of the coalition the day before Mr Michel flew to Morocco to sign the deal.
Belgium has a history of division between wealthier Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and the run-down French-speaking former industrial heartland of Wallonia in the south.
This has contributed to political instability, and Belgium holds the modern European record for going the longest time without a government, a whopping 541 days in 2010-2011.
But Mr Michel had so far held together a delicate four-way coalition involving liberals, Flemish Christian Democrats and the nationalist N-VA, which eventually wants a separate homeland in Flanders.
Updated: December 19, 2018 01:09 PM